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Dutta ends speculation by taking charge at IndiGo

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February 1st 2019

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InterGlobe Aviation, the parent company of Delhi headquartered, IndiGo, has announced an ex-United Airlines president, Ronojoy Dutta, will run the low-cost carrier for the next five years, with effect from January 24. Read More »

The announcement follows Dutta’s arrival at the carrier late last year, where he was tasked with writing a business plan for the carrier to 2024 by IndiGo co-founder and fellow United Airlines executive, Rakesh Gangwal. The assignment prompted the resignation of CEO-in-waiting, Greg Taylor.

Sixty-seven-year-old Dutta spent 17 years at United Airlines where he was president from 1999 to 2002. An alumni of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School and management consultancy Booz, Allen and Hamilton, he was running the airline when the 9/11 terrorist attacks struck the U.S. A United Airlines aircraft hit the World Trade Centre and another went down in Pennsylvania as passengers bravely fought the terrorists.

The following year United went into bankruptcy protection and Dutta left the airline. The Chicago-headquartered carrier was going broke, despite attempts to reduce costs that could not be agreed with the airline’s unions. In 2002, United Airlines was US$1 billion in debt as traffic continued to drop after 9/11. The attacks were the final nail in United’s coffin.

Since then, Dutta has advised the Indian government on the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines and was an advisor and then president of LLC, Air Sahara, from 2005-2008. After Jet Airways bought Air Sahara in April 2007, Dutta left the carrier within months and worked as a consultant for several aviation and infrastructure groups, including the AAR Group.

There are challenges ahead at IndiGo. Formerly very profitable, the LCC has stuttered in the last year as fuel prices rose, capacity exploded in the sector and competitors maintained a painful fare price war.

But the LCC still remains far ahead of rivals with a market share of 43.2% at year end. The remaining 56.8% of the passenger pie was divided among Jet Airways (13.9%), Air India (12.4%), SpiceJet (12.3%), Go Air (8.8%) AirAsia India (5.3%) and Vistara (3.8%).

At an earnings call after the announcement of his appointment as CEO, Dutta said the LCC planned to grow by 30%, largely in overseas markets. The first route expansion will be increased frequency between Kerala and Doha and Kuwait, he said.

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